Bolivia launches call for lithium extraction


From pv magazine International

Bolivia has announced plans to resume lithium extraction, according to a statement issued by the Ministry of Hydrocarbons and Energy and state-owned Yacimientos de Litio Bolivianos (YLB) last week.

The call is aimed at companies that have direct lithium-extraction technology (EDL) and that can conduct pilot tests at the Uyuni, Coipasa and Pastos Grandes salt flats, the Bolivian government said.

International players such as Russia’s Uranium 1G, China’s Gangfeng Lithium and TBEA, and U.S.-based EnergyX recently participated in an online meeting that YLB and the ministry held with potential investors. Experts at the meeting outlined the characteristics of EDL technology.

“EDL technology is a step toward innovation that will provide important opportunities to generate technical and technological growth and that is what we are here to present today,” said Minister of Hydrocarbons and Energy Franklin Molina.

This is the second attempt to exploit lithium in Bolivia. YLB and Germany’s ACI Systems agreed in October 2019 to set up a joint venture to exploit lithium from Bolivia. Around $1.2 billion was to be invested in a high-tech complex at the Uyuni salt flat, with the main product to be lithium-ion batteries. Under the terms of their agreement, YLB was set to take a 51% stake in the joint venture. Just a month later, however, the government stopped the project by decree, without giving any explanation.

In April 2018, the Bolivian authorities said that ACI Systems had been chosen to commercialize Bolivian lithium from among the eight expressions of interest the government had received. The agreement would have had a duration of 70 years.

Salar de Uyuni is believed to be the world’s largest lithium deposit. The original plan was to produce 30,000 to 40,000 tons of lithium hydroxide a year from 2022, with investments of €300 million to €400 million.

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